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Leader of the Pack

Leader of the PackFeatured on the cover of this month’s ‘Runner’s World’ magazine, Tufts graduate Jen Toomey – who posted a record-breaking performance at the U.S. Indoor Championships – is at the top of her game. Boston, Mass.

Boston [03.10.04] Though she's only been seriously running for five years, Jennifer Toomey is quickly becoming one of the sport's newest stars. After setting a series of records in a career-best performance at the U.S. Indoor Championships in February, the Tufts graduate has set her sights on climbing the sport's ranks and earning an opportunity to compete for Olympic gold.

"Although Jennifer Toomey, 32, has been ranked among the top three U.S. 800-meter runners for the past three seasons, she didn't begin serious racing until the advanced age of 27," reported Runner's World - which features the Tufts graduate on the cover of its April issue. "Despite her inexperience, Toomey finished 2003 ranked second in the nation."

Toomey is leading the pack this year as well, putting in strong performances during the first races of 2004.

"Jen Toomey won two national titles in Boston, running the fastest 800 meters (2:00:02) by a U.S. woman this year and coming back the next day to win the 1,500," reported USA Today.

With these victories, Toomey became the first woman ever to win both events at the US Indoor Championships. But the accomplishment almost didn't happen.

"I told my coach I didn't want to race [on Sunday]," Toomey told The Boston Globe. "I was so tired I didn't want to do it again."

With the encouragement of Coach Tom McDermott, Toomey agreed to run the 1,500 following Saturday's 800-meter victory.

"[McDermott] asked me if I wanted to do well at the Worlds or the Olympics and I said the Olympics," Toomey told the Globe. "He said, ‘Well, then you are doing the double.'"

The decision paid off. An underdog coming into the second race, her victory has solidified her position at the front of the track and field pack.

"Toomey is center stage, certainly, in her home area, but her profile is being raised rapidly," reported the Globe. "No longer will she be considered an outsider or underdog."

Nor is she still in the shadows. A champion diver in high school and at Tufts, Toomey never ran competitively until 1997, when a friend challenged her to beat him in the Boston Marathon.

"I said ‘No Way,'" Toomey told Runner's World. "I only had six weeks to train for it so I joined a local running club. One day the coach saw me running strides and said, ‘You're pretty quick. You're in the wrong event. You should run the 800.'"

Toomey won the bet and found a new passion.

"The 800 is different [from other track and field events]," she told the magazine. "I love how you need to run aggressively. It's a tactical race that requires you to think on your feet and react to the moves of the other runners.

Her smart approach worked at the Track and Field World Championships last weekend in Budapest, where she placed fourth overall, posting a personal best time of 1:59.64.

With her sights set on the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Toomey says she is not intimidated by the heavy-duty competition she will encounter.

"The Olympics brings out something that's unique in the winner," Toomey told Runner's World. "When you get to the starting line, everyone's even, and I have as good a chance as anyone."

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